28 September 2006

Life In Maine (Part XVI: Cultural Tutorial B)

Cultural Tutorial B: A Window Into the Soul of Northwoods Maine

A German woman that I met in a local bar-cafe the other night was telling me about how she ended up in Greenville, ME. She had met a man on the Internet, had engaged in a friendship with him, and had fallen in love. Time went by and she finally moved out to live here with him. They now have a child together, a home, and a very stable life.

"Do you like it here?" I asked her.

"God no!" she told me, "If I had known what this place was like, I never would have moved here. But I just figured, 'heck, every place in America is the same."

A common mistake, and one that I have made a thousand times. Being from such a self-centered region of the United States (New Jersey), I am used to thinking of the country (or at least of the East and West Coasts) as one, big, homogenous place.

Not so.

Maybe it is just because of the circles in which I live and work here, but people are different...Very different from what I'm used to. Some examples:

Everyone hunts.
Everyone eats moose.
Everyone has a gun.
Good looking girls fish.
People say "goddamn" a lot.
They say "queer" and mean "weird"

And there is much more than these admittedly shallow differences that separates "Joe Mainer" from "Joe New York".

My dad used to tell me (with a chuckle, half-joking): "You know that you're in Maine when you start seeing people using car hoods as an addition to their house."

Sad, but true. It is not uncommon to meet people here, at least in this part of the state, that live in log cabins, in shacks, in all sorts of "rustic" circumstances.

There is so much to tell on this subject, but I will wait until the next entry, when I provide a full description of the temporary workers currently here at the camp. They've been here for three days and eat with us in the ktichen. I have never, ever, been so happy not to be the enemy of someone as I am with these guys.

They are rough and tumble, let me tell you.

Coming soon.

26 September 2006

Life in Maine (Part XV: Cultural Tutorial A)

A lack of free time (and internet access) over the last month has created a certain sparcity of the blogged items. I have been able, in the brief moments afforded to me, to offer a general idea of my day to day life here in Maine, describing my activities and work schedule, the ecology and landscape, etc. What I have not been written enough of, to my dismay, is a description of the general culture here.

This said, I would like to rectify this situation as much as possible, and describe a bit the way in which life is lived here. Or, at least tell how it differs from my own life experience.

Part I: Small Town Living: The Anything but Blissfull, Serpentine Experience

Elsewhere in this blog, I have discussed the ways in which my travels have taught me to never accept at face value the appearence of peaceful existence put forth by small towns. A brief foray into most small towns will generally reveal a quiet, tranquil life in which residents support and understand eachother. One often imagines neighbors delivering pies to their sick or pregnant friends and families enjoying extended, inter-generational friendships. Everyoone knows eachother, and except for one or two crazies, likes eachother.


Well, not completely, at least not in my experience. Here in Greenville, the town is like one big family--but like most small towns, it is a wholly disfunctional family. Friends do give eachother pies. Eric does bring homemade donuts to the guy at the dump (who then gives him interesting things that he has found amongst the garbage). Carol does know the intimate history of 95% of the townsfolk.


There is more.

Many people in town hate eachother. Out of maybe 10 restaurants in town, I can now (based on rumors I have heard) find reason to avoid at least 5 of them. This guy is a fascist, the other is a rascist, the other beats his wife....the list goes on. Everyone is somehow connected, which of course makes for a rather incestual (not literally) existence.

Imagine: You hate Bobby. Bobby marries Sue. Sue is the best friend of your sister. You will now see Bobby at tons of family functions and parties and bars and all sorts of events. This sort of problem seems to arise constantly.

And, to add to the general problems faced by any small town, there are also the following divisive issues:

1. Plum Creek (the biggest landowner in the country, which owns much of the land here in the area. Some people agree with their plans for the area, some do not--thus creating a great deal of friction.

2. The Applalachian Mountain Club: This organization, not to be confused with the ATC (App. Trail Club) is looking to buy much of the land in the area as well--Again, some are with their plans, others are against them.

3. Snowmobiling rights: Snowmobilers (who are often also the users of ATVs, etc) are pitched against many landowners that refuse to allow them to ride on their property. Unfortunately, snowmobiles make a great deal of noise, pollute the environment, etc. The divisions created between these two groups are amazing, and often lead to vandalism and long-standing fueds.

In essence, these three problems are all quite interrelated, and really come down to one core issue--land use. Historically, this part of Maine (much of Maine, in fact), was all timberland. The timber companies that owned the land would build roads throughout their holdings in order to allow traffic of their trucks, machinery, etc, and really didn't care what people did on their land, as long as they didn't get in their way.

This was, of course, quite a blessing. Hermits would live on the land, recreational activities were unregulated, hunting was allowed on any of the lands, etc. Now, however, as new landowners come in to the picture with different plans for land (ie: Nature Preserves), some people get angry.

And so, the town is incredibly divided, and a hotbed for rumor and feuds. Everyone seems to have enemies (and friends too of course), and the lines seem to be quite firm for the time being. As I said before, however, these sharp lines must of course criss-cross through the various natural alliances of kinship and friendship.

And so, it is a mess. More soon on Maine Country Living

Life in Maine (Part XIV: Bangor)

Things are coming to an end here. I leave Maine on Sunday morning and head South for warmer climes.

I headed out yesterday for Bangor with Eric, where we spent the day stuffing ourselves with sushi, visiting Eric's grandfather, inspecting 'excavators', and looking for lumber.

All quite eye-opening for a Jersey Boy.

Life is quiet otherwise. The weather is steadily growing colder, and frigid winds whip across the pond, straight into the cracks in my cabin walls. The skies are cloudy and gloomy, and rain seems to fall as often as it doesn't.

More soon.

23 September 2006

19 September 2006

Life in Maine (Part XII: Into the Clouds)

I walked into the clouds today, moving steadily upward from the camps, climbing the mountains that loom over the far side of the lake.

The path was familiar at first, and far from arresting in its beauty. I followed a dirt road through the trees--changing already at this altitude--passing familiar turnoffs and paths. I was sleepy, and a bit bored, and longed for something to catch my attention.

Soon enough, I reached the end of the dirt road and, picking through "puckerbrush" and undergrowth, began to follow an old trail. The trail crawled up the mountain steeply, and I followed it even as it became more difficult to ascertain exactly where it it was leading me. The climb was seeminly interminable, and at no point could I find a vista of any sort.

At some point, after bushwacking through the overgrown trail for some time, I came upon an old metal stove. The rusted bohemoth sat alongside the trail, filled with rotting leaves and decaying vegetable matter. On the other side of the trail I saw a doorway leading into the mountain. Carefully placed stone masonry ringed the opening, and wooden beams supported the earth. A rusting 1970's pull-top Pepsi can sat just outside the door.

I carefully approached the door. "Hello?" I said, hoping that whoever had once lived here no longer did.

Nobody responded to my call. I listened for noises. Nothing.

I moved along down the trail, making space between me and the strange place. I am always greatly affected by abandoned homes, ghost towns, and the like, and being alone atop a mountain made the whole experience even more spooky. I moved along, and the vegetation quickly grew strange as I moved deeper into the perpetual cloud cover.

The ground was covered with rotting trees, the soil obviously made of natural compost. Moss grew over everything fallen, creating a dark green carpet over the forest floor. The tall, thick trees blocked out much of the harsh, cloudy light.

I crept along, a bit hesitant, but unwilling to allow this supernaturally strange feeling to stop my trip. Suddenly, I stepped on something strangely non-organic. I looked down to see a taut metal wire suspended a few inches above the trail. The wire ran up the slope, following the trail.

I stepped back quickly, assuring myself that my imaginary 1970's hermit had certainly not installed trip wires. And, I told myself, if he had, he certainly had not connected said wires to packages of dynamite. And what more, I thought, even if he had done such a thing, the dynamite would surely not have lasted this long under such damp conditions.

I stepped back from the wire, nearly convinced by my reasoning, but not quite. I slowly continued up the hill, supporting myself with small trees as protection against the dangers posed by the slick, moss-covered rocks.

After another half-hour or so, I reached what seemed to be the peak of the mountain. Stepping into a small clearing, I found, to my surprise, that I had stumbled across the Appalachian Trail. I sat for a few minutes, studying the signs and the distances to local landmarks listed, and then began my careful trek downwards.

This time, I felt much more confident about my surroundings, and took to a bit of exploring. I tugged on the wire (but not too harshly) to see where it led (I couldn't figure it out), and when I reached the "hermit's home", found, upon peeking in the door, that it was in fact only a small root cellar. The "room" was only about four feet wide, four feet high, and three feet deep, and had obviously served as a small storage space.

Curious now, I looked around, sure that some sort of home must be nearby. I found more metal parts, in addition to the stove. I kicked a strange looking object, which promptly fell apart, revealing a six-pack like structure made up of long, thin tubes (dynamite????). I found a long slab of concrete that appeared to cover other rocks. I began to kick at it and it fell apart. I put the pieces back quickly, thinking "what if this is a grave?"

It was all now much more interesting than it was spooky, but nonetheless, I chose not to spend too much time there and continued on my way down the mountain.

When I finally reached the Camp again, I told Eric about my hike, and began to ask him questions about the strange things that I had seen. The answers, of course, were much more mundane and much less spooky than my imagination had led me to believe, but still quite interesting. I had passed what was once a fire-watcher's post. The small room was in fact a root cellar of sorts, and the house this man once lived in was burned down by the forest service long ago. The strange grave-like concrete slab was the step that led into the house.

And so, somewhat sadly, the mystery has been solved, and I can now hike up the mountain across the pond with impunity and confidence, but without mystery or adventure.

15 September 2006

Life in Maine (Part XI: Success)

Like the triumphant warrior, I returned to the kitchen brandishing my Ziplock bag. Inside was a beautiful trout, a fine specimen of the brook trout that live in West Branch Pond, grown to about 9 or 10 inches.

I had caught him whilst standing atop a rock on the far left corner of the pond, my canoe tied to a nearby smaller rock. My pant legs were rolled up, my sleeves were cut off, and damn if I didn't feel like Huckleberry Finn.

At least, that is, until I actually caught the trout, and found myself somewhat confused as to Eric's instructions on how to kill a caught fish.

"Stick your finger in its mouth, and break its neck," he had told me.

I gazed into the gaping mouth of the trout. I grew sad at his laborings for air. His reddened teeth looked back at me, and I wondered how the hell I was meant to stick my finger in there and break its neck.

I ended up clumsily and squeamishly killing the fish with the handle of my fishing net. I was not too fond of this part, and I'm sure that I looked rather stupid, wading into the water beside my canoe, beating the bottom of the raft with a net. The clunking of the handle echoed off the mountains and across the lake.

I have since talked to Eric, and it turns out that there are easy and quick ways to part with the life of a fish. Needless to say, they are probably much more humane. He plans to demonstrate them for me on my now dead fish tonight.

Anyway, tomorrow breakfast should be quite delicious. Carol usually soaks the fish in butter and rolls them in corn meal before frying them in bacon fat.

Not only delicious, but healthy!

14 September 2006

Life in Maine (Part X: Brave New World)

Nothing will ever again be the same. Everything has changed.

I caught a fish today. A little fish, but a fish all the same. I saw the fish rising, saw the distinctive concentric circles in the water, and I cast like I had never cast before. My line flew out before me, landing gently on the surface of the water. I began to pull the line, retrieving my fly....

And the little bastard bit and held on. And I pulled him in. I let out a yelp of joy and nearly jumped with pride.

"I just caught the smallest fish in West Branch Pond!" I screamed triumphantly, and those watching me from their cabins celebrated with me.

Interestingly, this comment was the perfect foil for the earlier bellow which I heard come from far out on the lake. A man, standing in a rowbotat amidst other fisherman, screamed, "God motherf@#$%% damnit! Son of a bitch!" I guessed that he hadn't caught a fish, and I reflected on the emotions that people place into such a sedentary, tranquil sport.

The first fisherman that I saw after my success was in the dining hall, about a half-hour later. He immediately told me a terrible fishing joke about a one-armed fisherman. Apparently I'm in the club now. I've passed the test.

This is glorious.

In other news...well, there is really no other news. Life here continues as it has over the past two weeks. Lots of work, cabins to clean and tables to serve and logs to lug. In between, moments of respite and fishing. And lots of eating (more soon on the West Branch Food, which deserves an entry all to itself).

I hope that all are safe and well.

13 September 2006

Life in Maine (Part IX: Fishing)

Can you still call it fishing if you never, ever catch anything remotely fish-like?

Am I watering? Or whipping? What can I possibly call what I am doing?

I headed out again today after lunch. I picked up the rusty cement-filled coffee can from the dock and placed it in the rowboat. I carefully placed my rod in the boat, stepped onto the bench seat, and pushed away from the dock.

After fitting the long and heavy oars into their oarlocks, I turned the craft and began to move. Like most rowboats, this one is loud--the right oar squeaks like an devilish mouse with every movement I make, and the screeching noises reverberated off the surrounding mountains. I imagined that all the fish were warning each other of my imminent arrival, aware that a veritable master of the hunt was in their midst.

And then I "fished". And "fished". And "fished".

I caught absolutely nothing, and ended up losing the fly. This, thankfully, is apparently quite common.

Nonetheless, while I continue to hope to catch something soon, I also continued to take the whole thing in stride. It is fun, being out there, standing up in my rowboat, casting the line far out into the waters, trying to figure out where the fish might be hiding from me. I feel like I'm doing something that I should have always been doing, like I'm somehow pre-programmed to stand shirtless in rowboats, smoke cigars, and flyfish.

Not to mention, for the first time in my life, I can talk to other people about fishing. I've always been jealous of fishermen and their conversations, and now I too can finally say things like:

"Catch anything today?"


"They we really jumpin' last night."

And now, when people ask me, "Do you fish?", I can finally at least say, "I think so", and probably get away with saying "Yes. Yes I do."

More soon from Maine, where the fish are.

12 September 2006

Life in Maine (Part VIII: Learning Stuff)

Little by little I learn.

I generally consider myself somewhat of a master of starting fires. Years of pyromania and Boy Scouts provided me with the skills that I needed to get campfires started in record time, in nearly all conditions.

I even remember boiling water in the rain in the Okefenokee swamp, using reeds as the only fuel. Grabbing bunches of reeds, I would shove them in the fire and then run back to the dry car until it was time to collect more. Within a short while, I had made coffee and hard boiled eggs (I had wanted to poach them, but we ran out of hollandaise sauce and the english muffins got all soggy, so we scratched that plan).

And so, you can imagine my consternation when presented with a small woodburning stove here, and realizing that I really had no clue as to how to work it. The stove is too small to construct my usual "log cabin inside a teepee" fire lay. It is way too small, in fact, to make any of the intricate stick patterns that I had to learn to become an Eagle Scout so many years ago.

I finally broke down after a few days and asked Eric for advice, heavily bruising my ego in the process. Here is what I learned:

1. Place one "stick" (that is what they call a log in Maine) in stove.

2. Crumple sheets of newspaper.

3. Place newspaper balls on top of original stick.

4. Place kindling atop newspaper.

5. Place a final "stick" atop the kindling.

6. LIght and enjoy.

Today has also been a day of learning, as I have finally learned to fly fish. So far, after fishing for three or four hours, both from the dock and from a rowboat, I have caught the following:

1. My own ear.

2. My sweatshirt.

3. Numerous rowboats (freshwater)

I have faith, however. My hands are tired but my soul is light, and I am sure that I will have success. What more, I finally think that I might understand why so many people fish. It truly was a relaxing experience, sitting alone far out on the pond, casting over and over again, engaging in the same repetetive motions (much like I have found wood cutting to be).

It is also, clearly, just a great way to sit out in the middle of the water and do nothing much at all, and still not get bored. And, when I finally catch something, it is going to be some damned fine eatin'.

Pretty nice.

10 September 2006

Life in Maine (Part VII: Pond Pictures)

Quick UPdate and some photos:

As the search for lobstering jobs has continued, I have had a number of leads. So far:

1. I'm supposed to call a guy named "Skip" that might have some work for me.

2. I've written to the the great Aunt of a friend of mine. Said great-Aunt owns a chowder house. I'm hoping that she can give me some advice, although I have yet to hear from her.

3. An older woman, a guest here, placed a few calls for me to her "grandson-in-law" who works as a lobsterman. I got the call yesterday. He "no longer needs anyone in his boat."

In light of the string of bad luck with the lobster thing, I am beginning to entertain other thoughts, including Potato Picking. I call it "picking", but apparently it is a job that entails more "gathering" after the potatoes have been dug up with a machine.

While picking potatoes would sort of ruin the romance of the lobstering industry, it may in fact, be a better option. My contact with "Skip" has described lobstering to me as "cold, hard, and smelly" and "certainly not romantic at all." He's probably right, but I wonder if that's something that I should figure out on my own.

More as things unfold.

09 September 2006

Life in Maine (Part VI: Funky)


1. My clothes, until yesterday, at which time the washer was hooked up to the water supply.

2. The music at the party to celebrate the engagement of Eric and Mildred.

I headed into town in clean clothes last night. Eric and Mildred will be getting married on October 7th of this year, and had planned last night as a pre-marriage celebration. And so, already cursing my future self (the one lacking sleep), I went into town with Sarah (a work associate and friend).

We arrived at the house where the official party was to take place, and enjoyed a bit of wine, some hors d'ouvres, and some slightly awkward conversations with a whole bunch of people I have never seen before. After watching Eric and Mildred open their gifts (camp baskets, soup set decorated with pictures of fish, etc.), we headed out to Woody's, a local drinking establishment.

Mildred had hired a band for the occasion, and the live music had attracted what seemed to my eyes to be at least half of Greenville's population. The band, which played funk and general 70's tunes, was decked out in strange wigs that mimicked afro hairstyles, leather pants, and barely buttoned polyester shirts. Mildred, getting into the spirit of the occasion, had also dressed up, and wore a skintight, one piece pink article that made her a star attraction at the bar.

As I knew almost nobody at the bar (Sarah left quite quickly), I had the chance to sit back and reflect a bit on the general crowd at the bar.

Some of my perceptions of Greenville Living:

1. There are quite a number of "rednecks" here (in addition of course, to the many kind, friendly, and wonderful people here).

2. Rednecks drink a lot.

3. There appear to be quite a lot of drugs here, which is unsurprising. My associate Mr. Weinstein and I had noted in our cross-country journey that meth seems to be a problem pretty much everywhere rural in the continental United States. I spoke to a few people over the course of the evening that seemed to have trouble with any brand of comprehension, and talking seemed to be rather difficult for them as well.

We left rather early, as soon as the band had finished, and Eric and Mildred informed me that we had left just in time, as some man legendary for his drinking exploits and fighting tendencies had just arrived. It would have been interesting to see that, but perhaps it is better to have missed any such show, especially as my outsider status would perhaps have thrust me into said show.

Anyway, things continue along the line of the status quo here in Township A, Range 12, Maine (that truly is the name of the town in which I am living). I finally get a couple of days off this week, and so I will hopefully get out of camp for at least a few hours and see what the area has to offer.

06 September 2006

Life in Maine (Part V: Death)

Before I came up here, a bunch of people asked me how well I knew the guy giving me the job.

"Are you sure he's not some weirdo?" they asked.
"What if this guy's a murderer?" they said.
"Could he be a pervert?" they wondered.

I assured them that Eric seemed completely normal, and so far, my gut seems to have led me right.

Nonetheless, the quiet state of Maine was recently rocked by the news of a Bed and Breakfast Murder in a small town. It seems that a man killed three of four people, cut them up, and threw their body parts all over the area.

If anyone is wondering, this is not the same place. Check out the story here:



On a separate and more peaceful note, I took a trip into town today for the first time. My co-worker Sarah brought me on a tour of the area, which turns out to be quite nice.

There are tons of mountains, lakes and streams in the area. It really is pretty beautiful.

Oddly, there are only about 1300 people in the town of Greenville (which turns out to be about 45 minutes from where I am), but about 1700 houses, due to the number of people that own vacation homes in the area.

That's about it for tonight. I am exhausted and stuffed with Maine lobster.

Good night.

05 September 2006

Life in Maine (Part IV: Near Doggy Death)

We almost killed a dog today.

Eric and I headed out into the woods to clear some land. He's planning on putting a wood shed, which we'll soon build, out on one side of camp, and needs to clear an area for the new construction.

Unfortunately, it seems that the forested area, which he only bought three years ago, has not been cared for in quite some time. And so, as I've recently learned, dead trees abound.

Dead trees could mean destruction for the woodshed, and so it is our job to get rid of them, by whatever means necessary. We had spent the better part of the afternoon getting rid of a few--cutting them, leaving a "hinge" so that they fall in the right direction, occasionally hooking them with a chain to a winch and physically "encouraging" them to move.

While we were working on our last tree of the day, before heading in to cook dinner, Eric's dog Kita came over to say hello. We shooed her away, but she continued to hang around. The winch hooked up to the tree, Eric began to crank. The tree began to fall, and I yelled to warn him to move.

He moved quickly and looked back. The dog was directly in the path of the tree, standing there a bit confused as to what was happening. We yelled, and the dog slowly moved as the tree crashed within four inches of her. Four thousand pounds of wood came within inches of her, and she walked away unscathed.

It was very lucky, both for me and the dog, because Eric said that "it would have crushed her right in half. And then I would have had to shoot her. Finish her off."

Very lucky. I think perhaps my lesson for the day would have been a bit too advanced.

Some guys staying here at the camp today asked Eric if he was "turning me into a country boy." He told them that I was doing a surprisingly good job, and maybe he would do just that. It's funny, because people can tell immediately that I'm not from around here, and seem to assume (correctly) that I don't have a clue as to how to winch up a tree or drive a backhoe or cast a fly rod.

But I will learn all of this. And yes, I will be a country boy by the end. I'm even supposed to try a moose steak within the next few days.

By the way, any of y'all know a lobsterman that will hire a guy like me for a month? If so, let me know. I'm looking for a job for October.

04 September 2006

Life in Maine

I went for a walk this afternoon, trying to find the mysterious hillock from which one can supposedly make cellular phone calls. Eric had given me instructions on how to arrive. I nearly followed them, but apparently didn't go quite far enough to reach the magical cellular bubble.

Perhaps tomorrow.

Anyway, I had walked up the road that led to this cellular shangrila when I heard a car pass below. This is rare here, especially in the area where I was walking at the time, and so I looked back to see who was passing. A large pickup truck with a light atop (this is quite common) passed on the road below. I continued walking.

I soon heard the truck coming behind me. I turned to let it pass, stepping off of the roadway, and waved hello. The truck slowed, and then stopped fully.

A grizzled face beneath a baseball cap peered out at me. His friend in the passenger seat looked too. Between them sat a rather large rifle equipped with a rather large sight.

"Hey, you just out here walkin' for exericise?" he asked me.
"Yeah, just walking around. Trying to find cellular service. I heard there was some around here."

The men stared at eachother dumbfounded.

"Well, I don't know," drawled the passenger, "I have got service with my bag phone around here, but I don't know about any regular old cell phone."

I stared at the gun, praying these men were not going to shoot me.

The asked what I was doing in the area. I explained that I worked at West Branch Pond Camps.

"Where you from?" they asked.

"Jersey," I replied.

"Well, you sure have my sympathy," the driver of the vehicle replied.

We spoke for a few more minutes, and I tried to use my surprising New Jersey statistics (about 40% forest, and 15 or 20% farmland) to woo the men into changing their idea of the state, but I had little success. They offered me a ride, and I declined the offer.

03 September 2006

West Branch Pond

Things have already settled in here into a quiet, busy rhythm. I'm up early in the morning, around six-fifteen or so, and by seven I am in the kitchen. We prepare the dining room, make juice, make coffee, put away dishes, and serve breakfast.

After breakfast is served and everything is cleaned, I get to work cleaning cabins--preparing them for arriving guests or cleaning the cabins whose users have departed. That done, I have some free time.

I have been enjoying the pond a great deal--canoeing, swimming and kayaking. I go across the lake and explore the small mangrove-like tendrils of the body of water, stopping along the way to watch the moose and the ducks. I stare up at the rolling mountains around me, at the clouds hanging above them.

In the afternoon--lunch, and the routine is the same as breakfast.

Yesterday, after lunch, I headed with Eric into the woods to chop and collect firewood. He has been making a trail through the woods in order to reach an area particularly rich in wood. And so over the roar of the chainsaw and a strange tank-like vehicle that Eric uses, I got down to the business of lumberjacking.

I've been using a splitting mallet, which is basically like a big, heavy, dull axe used to split logs that have already been chopped into manageable pieces. For an hour or so, I choppped away, straining my back muscles and bruising my palms. I can honestly see why people find chopping to be so relaxing, as I quickly found my rhythm and relaxed, noting little around me besides the sounds of my axe and the wood before me. In a short time, I found myself with a huge pile of firewood, ready to be dried. Honestly, the feeling of accomplishment that comes with chopping so much wood is wonderful.

In the evening, we cook and serve dinner, clean up, and then hang around a while before heading off to bed. The guests that are presently here have been treating themselves to a bonfire every night, and so the company is good and plentiful.

I have the feeling that in the month before me, little will change of this schedule, and so I don't plan to say much more about it. It is good work, and it feels timeless and wholesome. Everything in the daily routine seems to have been planned generations ago (much of it probably was), and all is somehow taken into account. Scraps on the plate go to the chickens or the dogs, extra cream goes into the baking, bones are used for stews and soups, menus are changed to allow for new ingredients. We draw the water from a spring and use it directly. It really is something to see, the way that life works here.

And so, little else is going on here. Below I will post pictures of the outside of my home, as well as a picture of a fine example of a beautiful fungus that grows around here. It sounds nasty, but it truly is beautiful.

I hope that all are well.

01 September 2006


I had a dream the other night.

I dreamt of Maine, of the camp where I would be working. I imagined that the setting would be completely idyllic--a beautiful lake surrounded by mountains, all quaint log cabins set alongside the water. I dreamt of sunrises and sunsets, of hard work in the woods and hearty meals. I dreamt of retiring in the evening to my own little cabin with a view of the pond.

Even in the midst of my dream, I checked my thoughts, aware that reality is so often a betrayal of such hopeful imaginings. I prepared myself mentally for a bed in an alcove, for tedious work, for a muddy pond in a boring environment.

Never would I have thought that everything would turn out just as I wished, but it has.

My lodging is a log cabin from which I could conceivably spit into the lake. The sun rises over the lake in the morning, and the moose come to drink from the still waters of the 125 acre pond. The pond is ringed with mountains that slowly slope down to the water's edge, gently lightening until the ground is no longer ground, but rather marsh grass and pine trees rising from the shallow water.

I woke this morning with the sun and stepped outside to look around the place, as I had arrived late last night and had been unable to see anything. The morning fog was curled up atop the water, and the grass was wet with dew. The air and water glowed with the sunlight, and at the water's edge stood a moose, gulping water and splashing about. I walked around the rest of the camp, looking at all of the other cabins, most of them between fifty and one hundred year's old. I said hello to the camp's dogs and stepped into the kitchen, where I met Eric's mother (Eric is the owner of the camp), already at work brewing coffee and frying bacon, preparing the day's breakfast.

At 7:30 the kitchen bell rang loudly and the few guests walked into the dining room. I stayed in the kitchen, drinking coffee with the others that work here, planning out the week's work, which is to include cleaning cabins, waiting on tables, cutting firewood, and building a wood shed.

The rest of the morning passed quickly, as I was trained in the art of cleaning cabins, learning how to make a bed with hospital corners, sweeping off the wide wooden boards of the floors, clearing cobwebs from the window frames. The cabins are truly beautiful--built by Eric's family over the years, and made with materials from the surrounding woods. They are well made, and the wood-burning stoves in each of them keep them warm at nights and on cold days.

In the afternoon, I jumped right into the dining room, waiting on tables. I delivered steaming plates of lasagna, glasses of ice tea and lemonade, cups of coffee and pieces of homemade coffee cake. I have yet to spill anything. After the customers had eaten, we all sat down to eat before working to clean the place and do a few more chores.

As soon as I had finished my work, I headed out onto the pond in a canoe and explored the hidden nooks formed by the irregular shores. I pretended that I was a Native American and tried to paddle incredibly quietly. I raced against the wind and myriad imaginary foes until my arms and shoulders ached.

Below are a few photos of my new home. More to come soon.